My Testimony and Conversion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
by John Herbst III
Written within a few years of my conversion to the LDS Church.
I had always had a secret desire to be a priest or being in some kind of ministry. Although it seems I never striven to accomplish that mysterious desire, I had always felt a burning desire to join some kind of organized religion, but most churches didn't seem to fulfill me. They never seemed right. The Catholic Church seemed closest to my heart, because much of my family was Roman Catholic. My own parents never really encouraged religion that much, my mother was a Roman Catholic and my father was against organized religion as a whole. Although, when we were little we learned the Lord's prayer. Something inside me held me back from joining specific churches. All the practices of the churches I had seen turned me off, especially the collection plate. The collection plate to me was hypocritical. Not really knowing for sure why I hadn't joined some church, I soon would realize that God had a place for me.
In May of 1975, near the first of the month, I went on Senior Sneak and for the first time in my life I would go outside of the State of Wyoming. I was 18 years old at the time. Ironically, we went to Salt Lake City, Utah! It was really exciting!!!! Even though we went to the visitor's center on Temple Square, the only thing I remember learning about is Family Home Evening. It was an impressive trip. Most everything doctrinally went over my head, still I was changed by that trip. Even though I had no probing interest in the Mormon Church, something on that trip had touched my heart and one day it would do it again and would change my life forever. A week or so after I came back from Senior Sneak missionaries came to the door of our home. They asked us if we would like to hear their message. We said, "Yes", but never intended seeing them again. I'm still not sure if the missionaries ever returned or if we were successful in evading them. My family tended to be somewhat anti-mormon and had no interest in the church.
Interest in religion continued with me, periodically I would get on religious kicks, like reading the bible extensively for short periods of time. I had talked with some good friends who were born-again christians at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Wyoming about the gospel, but never really got interested enough to go to their bible studies or just never seemed to take the time. It was a non-denominational group on campus.
Then I came to the University of Wyoming in the Fall of 1977. I went to the Catholic Church once and that was it. I really came to detest the collection plate and that really kept me from joining that church. I fell into the temptations that I never did at home. Especially, I began to have a drinking problem, I got drunk for the first time in my life while at school. My life was headed for a crash landing. I guess I tried to escape my problems by drinking and partying. Something unexplainable was missing in my life, at the time I didn't know what, but now I know.
Around the first part of April 1978 I had a friend who was doing an Anthropology paper on the Book of Mormon. I had always had an admiration for the Mormons, their TV ads always seemed to leave me with a good feeling. So I decided to go with my friend to see what the church was really like. The first week I investigated I only went to church. The second week I took the first discussion, some other discussions, and movies. I think the first time they told me the Joseph Smith story I knew it was true, but I was still skeptical. The third week we went over a lot of doctrinal things. The fourth week I will never forget.
On Tuesday or Wednesday, I can't remember for sure, so many things happened so quickly that I didn't have time to think. On that day my friend Susan or Suzie(as we called her) Bennett and I and three Elders, Elder Bishop, Elder Williamson, and another Elder who's name I never could remember met at the LDS Institute in Laramie. We talked about the gospel, they challenged us to baptism, and the Spirit witnessed to us without a doubt that it was indeed true. The witness was so very powerful and never has an experience with the Spirit moved me like that one did. They challenged Susan and I to baptism, but neither one of us would commit ourselves. I was still rather afraid of the idea and Susan still has not joined the church. Yet I know that she felt the same things that I did.
After Susan and I left the room we were in, I was sure almost immediately that I had denied the power of God. A cold awful feeling came over both of us after we left the presence of the missionaries. The power of the devil had overcome, he had been victorious over my soul at that point. I will never forget that feeling of guilt and of remorse. I hope I never have to experience such a thing in my life again. I felt as if I was in HELL itself. In a sense I think I felt what hell really feels like. Maybe that was the only experience that I could compare it to and it was a way to show me the truthfulness of the church. The pain that came to my soul was a witness to me that I had made a terrible mistake. The misery I felt that night will never be forgotten. The pacing, the unrest in my soul, the long walk around campus, I tell you as a witness of God that I never want a feeling like that again. I never want to have the agony that comes with that again. I witness to the world that I'm sure that the feeling I had would be the feeling we would have if we were cast into the eternal hell, if we were cast completely from God and the Spirit. I had rejected God and all he stood for. I had been cast from his presence for a witness unto me. I prayed that night and decided that if the missionaries could answer some important questions to me satisfactorily, that I indeed would be baptized. And so it was. I felt a peace in my heart when I decided to be baptized, I have never regretted that decision. I had also found out for myself that the devil was real and has an awful power and it's scary to see that power work among men.
I was baptized during an afternoon blizzard in the Laramie First Branch in the Cheyenne Wyoming Stake of Zion on Saturday May 6th, 1978. The devil had tried everything in his power to stop me, but failed. Praise the Lord for that. Only my mother and a close cousin Karen Herbst knew that I was being baptized on that day. If my father had known he would have had a fit and who knows what he would have done. He eventually had a fit anyway, but couldn't do anything about it. But through all the persecutions of my father I never regretted the decision I made. I can honestly say I would die for the cause of Zion! I pray that someday my family may know the joy and truth of the gospel.
The next day I was ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. My secret desire of becoming a minister had come to pass. I was ordained exactly one month after I had started investigating the true Church of God. A joy I will never forget. A light note in my baptismal service was that it took them about 6 times to baptize me correctly. Most of the problem was my fault, I am deathly scared of water, which I never told them. I could never deny my testimony without living in an Eternal Hell, knowing that I had denied the power of God which had given me the testimony I had in the first place. I pray that all of us will Praise the Lord for his Eternal Mercy Forever and Ever.